By PLA Team Leader Carli
Throughout our lives, each of us is questioned as to “who we are,” to put it broadly. Despite this societal emphasis on personal identity, I recall being asked since kindergarten, if not earlier, “what I want to be when I grow up.” What I want to be, they ask – not who.
High school continued to pose this question in so many ways: what classes I took and what extra-curricular activities I enjoyed defined me, as everything was qualified “preparation” for the higher education and career which would define me. I entered university life expecting a space for self-discovery and personal growth, among academic opportunities.
I chose to attend Queen’s in part because of its academic reputation, and in part because of its rich traditions and immense school spirit. “Getting involved” became important to me, and eventually overtook schoolwork as my top priority and the biggest influence in determining my future, in terms of education and career. My academic and social pursuits have made my journey thus far rewarding – but not to the same degree as the extra-curricular activities I never imagined I’d so highly value.
My days are packed with meetings and rehearsals, administration and events, so I began presuming that others spent their time similarly when claiming to be “crazy busy.” It wasn’t until recently that I realized each person is involved uniquely and to a different extent, many people placing their academic commitment on a pedestal above all else.
I understand how, as academic achievements can open doors or limit opportunities to some degree; however, I know that it is my non-academic engagements which have helped me develop the necessary skills and connections to shape my own future, through stimulating my interest in new subjects and offering me the chance to apply what I learn in class. This is apart from the inevitable fact that I would simply go bonkers if academics were my sole, or even primary, focus!
My affiliation with a variety of student and community initiatives has built over the years, and now comprises the most fulfilling aspect of my university experience. It is these activities and the people I’ve met through them who have helped me define my values and reshape my priorities, and start answering the question I’ve always felt was overlooked: who am I?
Although I do love my studies and academics remain important to me, I know my future must be built on a foundation of balance which includes the extra-curricular commitments through which I can participate, lead, teach, and learn. These external communities have redefined my sense of self, and given me pride and opportunities detached from my successes and failures in coursework.
As we approach the end of this school year, I urge you to follow your heart and open your mind to these new possibilities! You never know what can be borne from a hobby or interest, let alone an inkling of curiosity or the itch to try something new; I challenge you to tackle the challenges of applying, engaging, and managing your time.
I cannot stress enough: the people you will meet, and the skills and lessons you will learn can make a greater contribution to your future than will the lost time from writing a paper or memorizing notes. It may take experimentation to find your niche, but I guarantee some space exists to support you on your road to self-discovery and personal growth.